Bryn Mawr Classical Review

BMCR 2016.05.09 on the BMCR blog

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2016.05.09

Response: Zwierlein on Zetzel on Riesenweber, 'C. Marius Victorinus, Commenta in Ciceronis Rhetorica'.   Response to 2016.03.44

Response by Otto Zwierlein, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn​ (

The reviewer acknowledges that Riesenweber “has done a very careful job” in reconstructing the manuscript tradition and that in his critical commentary he proves to be “a careful and learned student of the text”. It is regrettable that this distinguished scholar did not find the time “to read in detail through the thousand pages of Riesenweber’s analysis of manuscripts and textual problems”. For he would have easily come to the conclusion that Riesenweber’s recensio is the paragon of a systematic study of a manuscript tradition that has been obscured by medieval editorial work and contamination. Nor would it have escaped him that Riesenweber has done much more than writing “purely a textual commentary”: he explains, whenever necessary, Victorinus’ train of thought and the structure of his work (Riesenweber was the first to discover how Victorinus arranged his notes, writing longer theoria–chapters and shorter lexis–chapters, see “Lemmatisierung und Zitiertechnik” I 35-40), discusses the sources (which are all recorded meticulously in the Teubneriana), and analyses the often highly complex rhetorical systems, dialectical distinctions and logical deductions, including explanations of many philosophical and rhetorical terms with reference to their greek models. Discussing e.g. Victorin. comm. 2,15-17 R. Riesenweber refers to the anonymous author who continued Boethius’ commentary on Cicero’s Topica and used the same source as Victorinus for his definition of virtus, probably a lost neo-platonic treatise (II 6-9); he analyses Victorinus’ relationship with Aristotle, Porphyry and Boethius in his treatment of the ten categories and τὸ ὄν; he discusses the differences between subesse and inesse (i.e. substance and accidental qualities) (II 135-6) and between ‘homonymous’ and ‘synonymous’ (II 118-9); he refers to Zeno’s and Aristotle’s observations on the relationship between dialectic and rhetoric (II 204-5); and he was probably the first to use all of Victorinus’ works, “which represent a range of interests that few ancients can match and that even fewer modern scholars can control”, in order to evaluate the transmitted text.

Assessing the volume on the textual transmission (I) the reviewer takes sides with a previous editor, although he admits that he has “not collated either the manuscripts or the two editions”. He gives her credit for having “catalogued 46 manuscripts and discovered among them a Renaissance manuscript in Oxford (O, Bodleian D’Orville 152) that is in fact an extremely important witness to the text”. Riesenweber does not deny this; he does demonstrate, however, that his predecessor did not realise the importance of this witness and therefore mentioned it only sporadically in her apparatus. Riesenweber’s catalogue contains 60 Victorinus-manuscripts (an increase by more than 30%) and adds another 25 manuscripts containing excerpts and glosses. Is it fair to state, then, that Riesenweber “has added some (!) manuscripts to the list”? There is, moreover, a significant difference between cataloguing and collating manuscripts: given that the previous editor actually quotes only six of her 46 manuscripts in the apparatus, the claim that she “did extremely important work on the manuscripts” seems somewhat exaggerated. Riesenweber, in stark contrast, has collated twelve of his 60 manuscripts completely and has spot-checked all (!) the others. One of the “some manuscripts” missing in the previous editor’s catalogue is Q (Venice, Bibl. Naz. Marc. Lat. XI,15), which is even more important than O because it is older and more reliable. It is a pity that this discovery has escaped the reviewer’s attention. For with the help of Q and O Riesenweber was able to establish a new branch of the tradition (λ) resulting directly from the archetype and providing the correct reading in many places where previous editors had followed the vulgate.

Instead of reporting these improvements the reviewer conveys the false impression that Riesenweber failed “to provide full evidence” of the relationship between D and O because he did not provide a complete list of alleged conjunctive errors. In fact, Riesenweber has discussed all the relevant passages: I 165-6 he gives a few examples of trivia, discards with good reason all the lemmata and provides (most importantly) a long list of conjectures in the γ-family I 185-6. This list (along with many other things) has gone unnoticed by the reviewer. The few remaining passages are discussed at length in the critical commentary, which the reviewer probably did not read. Nobody expected him “to gather the evidence again to check”; one would, however, expect of him that he read a two-volume study worth $266 for a review that he volunteered to write.

Riesenweber’s results are irrefutable: D and O do not share a single conjunctive error. The reviewer seems to admit this at the end: “His reconstruction here is probably right.” That makes it all the more remarkable that he did not mention at all the obviously high value of the λ-branch rediscovered by Riesenweber, which has preserved additional text in many passages. If the reviewer, a distinguished expert in Ciceronian studies, had spent a little more time examining Riesenweber’s monumental work he would have had the pleasure of being one of the first philologists able to read a new piece of Cicero’s fragmentary speech Pro Tullio (frg. 1 Cl.), rediscovered by Riesenweber in the λ-manuscripts and printed for the first time Victorin. comm. 78,21–26 R. (cf. II 130).1

[For a response to this review by James E. G. Zetzel, please see BMCR 2016.05.18.]


1.   The following errors made by the reviewer should be corrected: (1) He seems to confuse the Carolingian Compendium de rhetorica, transmitted by the λ-manuscripts Q and O and edited by Riesenweber for the first time, with the late antique Tractatus de attributis personae et negotio, which can be found indeed in most of the Victorinus-manuscripts, sometimes between book one and two, sometimes at the end of book two. (2) In his report on the critical editions of Victorinus’ works published in the last decades of the 20th century he gives Pronay (1997) credit for being an editor of the De definitionibus; Pronay, however, did nothing more than reprint Stangl’s 1888 edition (as Hadot had done before in his 1971 book on Victorinus).

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